November 22 2011
Many Americans are completing their Thanksgiving checklist this week: Turkey? Check. Potatoes? Check. Bread for the stuffing? Check. Two bags of fresh cranberries? Check. Toxic chemicals? Huh?
That’s right. According to the dependably theatrical folks at the Breast Cancer Fund, Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the lining of canned foods, will be making an appearance this year at your Thanksgiving Day feast.
For this latest report, which is really a rehash of a report they released last month on BPA (which I wrote about here), the Breast Cancer Fund sent a variety of canned holiday staples — such as cream-of-mushroom soup, gravy, and creamed corn — to a lab to be tested for BPA. As expected, each of the foods was found to contain BPA; “contain” being the operative word. For the folks at the Breast Cancer Fund, the mere presence of BPA is enough to make them recommend we all swear off canned goods for life. But hopefully, most people with a shred of common sense will take this report for what it is: another hysterical claim from a scientifically dubious advocacy group.
According to the Fund’s report, the amount of BPA in these canned goods ranged from a high of 221 parts per billion (ppb) to levels so low that the chemical couldn’t be detected. In fact, only two cans reached levels above 100 ppb. But these numbers really mean nothing unless they are put into some sort of context — a detail the Breast Cancer Fund folks don’t bother with.
As with the Fund’s report last month, the organization failed to provide the most basic explanation of “parts per billion” or inform readers what is considered an acceptable daily intake of BPA. Of course, if they did, readers would understand that the BPA levels in these canned goods are extremely low — far below what is currently considered acceptable. Even the tested canned good with the highest ratings of BPA were far below what is considered acceptable.
Most scientists agree that BPA is completely harmless in the dosages humans consume. Yet the Breast Cancer Funds manages to miss the extensive body of research proving this. That research includes major studies in the United States by the EPA and the FDA as well as scientific bodies in Japan, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well as studies conducted by the European Union and the World Health Organization.
The Breast Cancer fund will of course continue to scare people with the irresponsible claims that BPA is “linked to breast cancer and other serious health problems” despite the fact there is no evidence of such linkage. Note that, a shockingly balanced 2010 New York Times article on BPA showed just how frustrated the scientific community is on the issue of BPA and its impact on the human body:
John A. Katzenellenbogen, a chemistry professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana, and an expert on how hormones works in cells, does not work with BPA but said he had seen researchers who study it argue bitterly at conferences, over supposedly identical experiments that had somehow yielded opposite results. At one such meeting, scientists in the audience said, “We don’t want to hear you two speak until you get this straightened out,” he recalled.
Americans trying to make sense of conflicting reports should note that BPA has barely been tested on humans (until recently with this study that again showed BPA to be harmless to humans). Rather, the studies have been conducted on animals (mostly rats) who receive massive quantities of BPA through injections directly into their blood stream, rather than the more realistic oral doses that mimic normal human consumption of BPA. It’s hardly surprising that animals stuffed full of chemicals show adverse effects; that tells us little about how BPA works in normal life.
As you prepare your Thanksgiving meal this year, fear not the can of creamed corn nor the can of green beans. Those hosting holiday celebrations have enough to worry about (Is the turkey cooked? Are the potatoes fluffy enough? Is Aunt Fern drinking too much? Is there going to be another fight about Obama with your liberal sister?). Overworked holiday hosts hardly need the fabricated stress of fearing they have just poisoned their guests.